Jonathan Meadows knows you think his coffee is expensive.
“We’re not over here lining our pockets,” says Meadows, who started Cultivar coffee in 2009. “This is how we pay our rent.”
A small latte costs $5 at Cultivar because it’s made with high quality ingredients by a well-trained barista who earns a living wage.
“Nobody at our company is making less than $15 an hour,” Meadows says.
Paying a living wage is so important to the company that Cultivar dismantled its customer loyalty program and decided to spend that money on employees instead.
“We were giving away $60,000 in product every year, but our own staff was having a hard time paying rent, or they were taking on other jobs,” Meadows says.
Paying higher wages was among the company’s top concerns before the coronavirus hit. After mid-March, Cultivar lost about 90% of its income and had to furlough most employees.
The location at Jefferson Tower, which opened in 2016, was closed entirely for almost three months. The coffee roaster’s original location in East Dallas offered only curbside takeout.
Now the Oak Cliff location has reopened, but both places offer only curbside takeout, and that’s how it’s going to be for the foreseeable future, Meadows says.
“The numbers keep climbing, and it didn’t make sense to put our employees at risk,” he says.
Plenty of loyal customers say they appreciate having a coffee shop where they know workers are taking safety precautions. Others complain that Cultivar won’t open its inside areas.
“We miss having people in the spaces, but we’re really just having to ask those hard questions every day,” he says. “I don’t want to see anyone get sick within our company, and we’ve been fortunate to not have any illness.”
Cultivar also lost some big wholesale clients, such as Alamo Drafthouse, which has yet to reopen. But the company picked up a new one: Central Market. Their roasts are now available at the Central Market on Lovers Lane.
Cultivar also pivoted to bottling. What’s different is that coffee drinkers can customize their orders. Say you want an oak milk, decaf, half-sweet latte every morning. Cultivar can bottle a week’s worth.
“For the baristas, they don’t have to change anything they do. They’re just putting the order into a different serving container,” Meadows says. “There’s been a learning curve for everyone, but it’s helped keep the staff busy.”
Call a day in advance to place custom orders.
Both Cultivar locations also offer their entire menus of sandwiches, salads and espresso drinks for curbside takeout.